[I find this article/book excerpt to be coyly misleading on the issue of class sizes. It attempts to completely divorce the issue of class size from the achievement gap debate, all along ignoring the elephant in the room: kids from prosperous white families whose parents have the social background, economic resources, and time to help their kids succeed do far better in school than kids from minority working/impoverished families whose parents have little educational success in their social background and no resources of time and money to buy their way up for their children. Increasing class sizes in this time of budget hacking will not appreciably hurt the achievement of white kids in middle to upper class homes, but it will roll back decades of effort in increasing the chances for poor and minority families to end the cycle of educational underachievement. When G. W. Bush was nailed to the wall for slow progress in Iraq, he would respond that "it's tough work" but that we need to "stay the course." Surely we can find a way to spare a few tens of billions to keep hacking at the achievement gap when we have afforded trillions to our wars. And what if some of those trillions had gone to bettering the lives of inner city youth caught in a warzone of their own? What effect might that have had? What a double standard from those who approve of our supplying the Iraqi people with resources supposedly aimed at bettering their lives, resources they did not have to work for, but who won't approve the same showering of resources here at home because they say people ought to have to work for what they get.]
[You see, it really is important the words we use -- how we say what we say. Despite a socio-political discourse dependent on soundbytes and ratings boosts. Kudos...]
David DiSalvo summarizes a new study where researchers asked students to read one of two crime reports. In the first report, crime was described as a “wild beast preying on the city” and “lurking in neighborhoods”: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/andrewsullivan/rApM/~3/ShtlKo7yfU8/beware-the-metaphor.html Shared via my6sense
[One wonders if this type of thing does not become self-fulfilling prophecy. Armageddon may happen because human beings are unable to face the possibility of Armageddon in the guise of our better angels. The rush to prepare for Armageddon is, in fact, helping to prepare Armageddon. That's not ironic, it's obvious...]
This is just what the Middle East needs right now: Glenn Beck Announces ‘Restoring Courage’ Event In Jerusalem, Says ‘The Very Gates Of Hell Are Gonna Open Up Against Us’. Terrific. Beck’s brand of high volume race-baiting and End Times paranoia …
This blog is called the “mainstem” at WanderingStiff.com for one simple reason: it is to represent the main pipeline of my thoughts and any personal news I care to divulge as I wander about my daily and weekly grind. Somewhere, I think I call it my “fencepost sounding board.” From here on out, that means sharing more and, hopefully, getting some response.
To that end, I want to make an open commitment to posting to this blog more often and especially with more regularity. I plan to do so by means of short posts throughout the week and the occasional, probably monthly “feature.” Over the past months I have experienced a variety of technical and personal hurdles, but I intend from here on out to neglect the technical in favor of the needful, and to inject the personal into the content. The urgent must give way to the important. If you can read it, then it’s good enough.
I intend this to be a freeing space for all kinds of thoughts that occur to me. There is much that I hope to release to the wind and just see what happens. Also, I hope to become an example of speaking openly and honestly. Too much communication these days is saddled with the necessity to please one’s listeners in the cheap fashion of the huckster, the salesman, the advertiser. Sell, sell, sell.
Well, I figure I’m not selling and you don’t have to buy. I prefer consideration. I prefer a listening ear to either instant agreement or rebuttal. I prefer the accumulative effect of collaborative thought to the arch-competitive streak that runs through the vast majority of our public discourse. So often we don’t even take the time to understand what a person is saying in the rush to label their political, religious, ethnic, and sexual alliances so that we can then either roundly endorse or defame them. We justify the stances we take by claiming a greater good or 9/11-like urgency (yeah, the world might end if you don’t slam another Apple/PC user). As a poet, I see this at work in the literary world, too. I find it a pointless endeavor akin to the popularity games played by adolescents. I never played those games in school, and I don’t intend to start.
Now don’t get me wrong: there are those I heartily disagree with. I just don’t think it is right to use the fact of my disagreement for the purpose of puffing myself up out of all proportion as some kind of self-righteous source of the only good information. At a time when everyone wants to be a pundit, to have some witty little one-liner designed to silence the opposition, I crave the slow accumulation of well-considered thoughts, of basic principles. I’d like on occasion to hear someone admit they were wrong about this or that, and I intend to do so myself. I’d like more modest claims than the surefire, bullet-point-inspired inanities I hear from the cable news outlets and much that passes for news on the internet. I value the simple statement of basic observations over grand and sweeping assertions that pass for “common sense” (another way of saying, if you don’t agree with me then you’re stupid).
Here’s one observation, then: our speech requires purging. Our language is a shambles of over-reaching hyperbole fueled by twenty years of arch-punditry. You’ve never heard so much demagoguery on the airwaves — well, not since the thirties. Actually, I no longer listen to it. It’s a taint on the very soul of all humanity. It is, in fact, the inhuman manipulation of people who don’t know any better, of those who are caught up in the fear and rhetoric of our times.
I’d rather listen to the simple observation of an ousted worker who is doing what they can to make ends meet and provide for some kind of a future. I’d rather hear the story of a single mom gone back to school to prove she can do all the things she’s been told she simply can’t. I’d rather listen to the memories of my grandparents who’ve been around the block a few times and have seen it all before. I prefer the nitty-gritty history of who-lived-where-and-when and all the little self-conflicted details of people’s lives and words. I prefer details to grand narratives put on by someone with an agenda. You can tell me your agenda is a “good” one, but that doesn’t matter to me. If you’re spreading semi-truths and half-baked conspiracies that resemble one of my kids’ dot-to-dot coloring activities, keep walking. My fridge already runneth over (actually, I’ve started taking digital pictures of them and using them for wallpaper on my phone and such; still, I have enough).
Second observation: the end does not justify the means. Rather, the means tell me squarely that the end will not be good no matter how you play it up as the solution to every problem on the face of the planet. You don’t grow a field of any kind of edible produce by pooring gasoline into the soil until it’s saturated with the stuff and then lighting it. But that is exactly what passes for valued public discourse among a good portion of Americans today. They look to voices they think they trust or to so-called experts, but in fact they’re the victim of a clever ponzi scheme: the same people selling folks watered-down, comforting solutions (that don’t even acknowledge the root problems we face, by the way) are also the ones getting folks riled up in the first place:
You need tonic water! It does everything! Oh, by the way, I just happen to have a bottle I could sell you. You should use it all the time — every day, in fact — to cure a host of ills that I assure assail you almost constantly. Then come back and buy more…
If I’m to listen to an expert, I’d rather it be a real expert — someone who’s studied or lived a thing for years on end and not some media professional with makeup on to keep them from looking pasty while they prop up an agenda with the only real purpose being to captivate a willingly misled audience for the sake of selling billions of dollars of advertising. Am I calling out the mainstream media? Absolutely. Of every stripe, race, creed, and political affiliation? Damn right.
I don’t really care what side of which aisle you’re coming from. Give me facts. Give me intelligent analysis that doesn’t overreach those facts. Leave the hyper-emotional reductionist generalization in the gutter.
This may all sound rather pessimistic, but I hold to this hope: that a good portion of everyday Americans see through the brown haze issuing forth from certain media channels. These folks know there’s no free lunch, and they realize that’s what’s being sold. “All our problems will solve themselves if we just [fill in the blanks].” “Bullshit,” they respond. “It’s not that simple.” And they can tell you a host of reasons based on their personal experiences why it isn’t that simple, from house values to jobs shipped overseas to our fake politics to corporate interests to what have you.
There is no one villain in this picture. Rather, there are a lot of hands in a lot of cookie jars. There is, however, one little item all those hands are serving: money. Money and its accumulation, a green-eyed monster that cares nothing for human problems beyond profiting off them.
Next up: An entry on my longtime “radical” way of thinking…